First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Pherecydes (Pherecides) was at this time a celebrated master. He was a native of Syros (Syrus) and a disciple of Pittacus (Pitacus), the natural philosopher. He was a man of exceptional understanding and the first among the Greeks to write of nature and the gods. Also (as Cicero states in the book Tusculum Disputations)[Cicero's () was a series of discussions on important points of practical philosophy, supposed to have been held in the Tusculanum of Cicero. It was written in 45 BCE.] he was the first to recognize the immortality of the soul. He predicted many wonderful things, as Laertius[Laertius, of whose life we have no particulars, probably lived in the second century after Christ. He wrote the in ten books. The work is of great value, as the author made use of a large number of writers on the history of philosophy, whose works are now lost.] states. Pliny says he was the first to reduce long dissertations to neat short ones. He was a master of Pythagoras, and wrote many letters to Thales the natural philosopher, receiving many from him in return.

Pherecydes of Syros, one of the Cyclades, was a son of Babys. The name of his birthplace, coupled with the traditions respecting the Eastern origin of his philosophical opinions, led many writers to state that he was born in Syria or Assyria. According to the concurrent testimony of antiquity, Pherecydes was the teacher of Pythagoras, although it is claimed by some that he received no instruction in philosophy from any master, but obtained his knowledge from the secret books of the Phoenicians. He was a rival of Thales, and like Thales and Pythagoras, was a disciple of the Egyptians and Chaldaeans. According to a favorite tradition in antiquity, Pherecydes died of the lousy disease, or Morbus Pediculosus; though others say that he threw himself from a rock at Delphi.

Pherecydes was, properly speaking, not a philosopher. He lived at a time when men began to speculate on cosmogony and the nature of the gods, but had hardly yet commenced the study of true philosophy. Hence he is referred to by Aristotle as partly a mythological writer, and Plutarch and others give him the title of ‘theologos'. The most important subject he taught was the immortality of the soul. He maintained that there were three principia (Zeus or Aether, Chthona or Chaos, and Cronos or Time), and four elements (fire, earth, air and water), from which is formed everything that exists.

Pythagoras (Pytagoras), in these times and throughout the world, was the most celebrated natural philosopher. He was a Samian by birth, exceptionally well proportioned in body, and learned in the arts of music, weights and measures. He first taught the Greeks geometry. He was also versed in mathematics; nor did he neglect medicine. He believed in the transmigration of the soul. And although he had no equal in his time, he was ashamed to be called a wise man; but he called himself a philosopher, that is, a lover of wisdom. Although a Greek, he gave laws to the Italians. He made the regulation that those attending his school should not enter upon philosophical disputations for a period of five years. His books, it is said, were burned by the Athenians. Laertius thought much of his teachings, of which we here note this: In all respects we should sever illness from the body, ignorance from the soul, unchastity from the loins, civic disturbances from the home, and excess from all things.

Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher, a native of Samos, and flourished about 532 BCE. He is said to have been a pupil of Pherecydes. He left in Ionia the reputation of a learned and universally informed man. "Of all men," says Heracleitus, "Pythagoras, the son of Mnesarchus, was the most assiduous enquirer." The extensive travels attributed to Pythagoras are not doubt mostly apocryphal, but there is no intrinsic improbability in the statement of Isocrates that he visited Egypt and other Mediterranean countries. According to tradition he was driven from Samos by the tyranny of Polycrates, and migrated to Croton. There he became the center of a widespread organization, which was originally a religious brotherhood for the moral reformation of society, rather than a philosophical school. The Pythagorean brotherhood had much in common with the Orphic communities which sought by rites and abstinences to purify the believer's soul and enable it to escape from the "wheel of birth." The society became entangled in politics, resulting in its dismemberment and suppression. The first reaction against the Pythagoreans, led by Cylon, seems to have taken place in the lifetime of Pythagoras, resulting in his retirement to Metapontium, where he remained until his death. The order appears to have continued powerful in Magna Graecia till the middle of the fifth century, when it was violently stamped out. Those who survived took refuge at Thebes and other places. One of the foremost doctrines of Pythagoras is the theory of the immortality and transmigration of the soul, a teaching connected with the primitive belief in the kinship of men and beasts. The Pythagorean rule of abstinence from flesh is thus, in its origin, a taboo resting on the blood-brotherhood of men and beasts. The scientific doctrines of this school have no apparent connection with its religious mysticism. Their discourses and speculations all connect themselves with the idea of numbers, and the school holds an important place in the history of mathematical and astronomical science. Pythagoras made geometry part of a liberal education, considering its principles and theorems from an immaterial and intellectual standpoint. His greatest discovery was perhaps that of the dependence of the musical intervals on certain arithmetical rations of lengths of strings at the same tension. He was the first to hold the earth and universe to be spherical. He realized that the sun, moon and planets have a motion of their own. It is improbable that he himself was responsible for the astronomical system bearing his name, which deposed the earth from its place in the center, and made it a planet like the rest. For him the earth was still apparently at the center and the later Pythagorean system is attributed alternatively to Philolaus and Hicetas. The system is this: The universe is spherical and finite in size. Outside it is infinite void, which enables the universe to breathe, as it were. At the center is the simple fire, called the Heart of the Universe (among other names), wherein is situated the governing principle, the force which directs the movement and activity of the universe. In the universe there revolved about the central fire these bodies: Nearest to the central fire is the "counter-earth" which always accompanies the earth; next in order, reckoning outwards, is the earth, then the moon, then the sun, then the five planets, and lastly the sphere of fixed stars. The counter-earth, revolving in a smaller orbit than the earth, is not seen by us because the hemisphere in which we live is always turned away from the counter-earth. The analogy of the moon, which always turns the same side to us, may have suggested this. This part of the theory involves the assumption that the earth rotates about its own axis in the same time as it takes to complete its orbit round the central fire; and, as the latter revolution was held to produce day and night, it is a fair inference that the earth was thought to revolve around the central fire in a day and night, or in twenty-four hours.

The system amounts to a first step toward the Copernican hypothesis, and Copernicus himself referred to it as such. The curious thing is the introduction of the counter-earth, the object of which, according to Aristotle, was to bring the number of revolving "bodies" up to ten, the perfect number according to the Pythagoreans. But elsewhere he hints at the truer explanation, when he says that eclipses of the moon were considered due sometimes to the interposition of the earth, sometimes to the interposition of the counter-earth, whence it would appear that the counter-earth was invented in order to explain the frequency of lunar eclipses as compared with solar ones.

Sappho (Sapho) Crexea[The meaning of the name given to Sappho of ‘Crexea' is unknown. Perhaps it is a corruption of Eresos, a town on Lesbos that some believe was the birthplace of Sappho.], a poetess of divine understanding, flourished at this time. She invented the plectrum with which stringed instruments are played. She was married to a very rich man and bore him a son named Dydan. She had several women students—Anactoria of Miletus (Anagora Millesia), Gongyla of Colophon (Congilla Colophonia), etc., to whom she taught a number of lyric pieces. She wrote in these lyric forms: epigram, elegy, iambic, and monody. She was also a very noble poet.[Sappho, one of the leaders of the Aeolian school of lyric poetry, was a native of Mytilene, or as some say, of Eressos, in Lesbos. She flourished during the reign of the Lydian king, Alyattes (c. 628-570). Easily the most famous of female poets of the ancient world (Plato called her the ‘Tenth Muse'), she was a celebrated and controversial figure in Greece and Rome (issues of sexual identity surrounded her, and Roman poets in particular found her fascinating for a variety of reasons). By the end of the nineteenth century she had become a patron saint of women writers in general, and of lesbian writers in particular. Her life and surviving poems (especially fragments 1 and 31—the latter perhaps the most famous and influential love lyric of all time in the Western world) continue to inspire men and women up to the present. Strangely, the Chronicle contains two entries devoted to her: the one here and the other, rather different, at Folio LXXI recto.]

Ezekiel (Ezechiel) the prophet, holy man and priest of the Lord, was taken prisoner with Jehoiachin (Joachim) the king, and carried off to Babylonia. To the people of Judea he predicted woe and bondage. These predictions he sent from Babylonia to King Zedekiah at Jerusalem; but the king would not believe them. At the age of thirty years, being the fifth year of his imprisonment, he wrote his book of prophecies. To Dan and Gad, as well as others, he predicted that they would not return to Jerusalem. He was murdered at Babylon and buried in the grave of Shem, son of Noah.[Ezekiel, one of the major prophets, son of Buzi the priest, was born and spent his earlier years in Judea. He was carefully educated but carried into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar with Jehoiachin, the king of Judea, eleven years before the destruction of Jerusalem, and was placed with a Jewish community in Chaldaea. He prophesied for over twenty-two years, was held in great esteem, and frequently consulted by the elders. Tradition states that he was murdered, and his supposed tomb is shown near Baghdad. Ezekiel was a stern Jewish patriot devoted to the rites and ceremonies of his religion.]

Daniel, a man of zeal, high priest and prophet, born of the tribe of Judah, was taken prisoner by Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Chaldaeans and, with Jehoiachin (Joachim), carried to Babylon, and nourished by his captor. At Jerusalem, in the ninth year of Zedekiah, when this young Daniel saved the innocent Susanna from death, he was inspired by the Holy Ghost and interpreted the first dream of the king of Chaldaea. For this the king appointed him collector. After Nebuchadnezzar died, and Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall for his son Belshazzar (Balthasar)[Belshazzar, the last king of the Chaldees at Babylon, reigned in conjunction with his father Nabonnedus at the time when the city was besieged by Cyrus in 558 BCE. Nabonnedus was closely shut up in Borsippa, a neighboring city, while in Babylon itself, Belshazzar made an impious feast, at which he and his courtiers drank out of the sacred vessels which had been carried away from the temple at Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, his grandfather. He was terrified by the apparition of the hand that wrote on the wall; and in the same night was slain, and the city taken by the Medes and Persians under Darius.] and predicted the course of his life, he was carried about in the city with great honor. Prompted by envy, Darius, son of Astyages, cast him into the lions' den; but he was released to enjoy even greater honors. He wrote his book of prophecies, divided into ten parts, according to the ten visions which he saw—three under Nebuchadnezzar, three under his son Belshazzar, and the seventh and eighth under Darius, and the last two in the reign of Cyrus. He was buried in the city of Ebethenis in the country of Persia (Media).

Daniel, one of the four major prophets, was of noble, perhaps royal descent, and probably born at Jerusalem. In his youth he was carried captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, together with three other Hebrew youths of rank, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in 604 BCE. He was there instructed in the language and arts of the Chaldaeans, and with his three companions, trained for the royal service in the palace. They refused to eat of the king's meat and to drink his wine, but chose "pulse and water." After three years training Daniel interpreted a dream for the king, and in reward was made ruler of the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men. In this capacity he won great fame. He also prophesied for the king and his successor.

Under Darius the Mede, Daniel was made the first of the "three presidents" of the empire. His enemies influenced Darius to forbid all prayer save unto the king for thirty days. But Daniel did not stop praying, and so was cast into a den of lions for punishment. But the Lord delivered him, and he was kept in his office. In the reign of Cyrus he likewise prospered, but seems to have left Babylon. When and where he died is uncertain. He is to be compared with Joseph at the court of Pharaoh. Both were involuntary exiles, and both statesmen. Both maintained their religion and personal character in the face of idolatry and corruption; both rose by their wisdom and integrity from slavery to the highest dignity in a pagan empire.


In the order named, these appear in vertical order on the left of the page:

  1. Pherecydes (Pherecides), the philosopher of Syros.
  2. Pythagoras (Pytagoras), a philosopher of Samos.
  3. Sappho (Sapho), the poetess.
  4. Ezekiel (Ezechiel), one of the major prophets.
  5. Daniel, the major prophet.